A Tale of Two Curricula

What is basic education? A nation's answer to this question will be defined by the curriculum it draws and implements. DepEd's K to 12 curriculum is not exactly limited to basic education since it attempts to address both university preparation as well as vocational training. In Finland, basic education is separate from these two tracks. Its nine-year system is compulsory and only after these nine years do students begin to choose between university preparation or vocational training. The difference likewise do not stop here. It is important to note that higher institutions of learning in Finland, its universities, are in fact research universities. But the differences between Finland and the Philippines are already major at the level of basic education. First, there are no private schools for basic education in Finland. Every child gets a free lunch too. The DepEd's K to 12 curriculum is also very different from Finland's basic education curriculum. 

In "K to 12 is still a work in progress", DepEd undersecretary for Programs and Projects, Dr. Yolanda Quijano enumerates the contents of the new curriculum for Philippine basic education:

"...Subjects or learning areas are clustered together to cut across grade levels from kinder to Grade 12 to nurture holistic development. Language subjects are Mother Tongue, Filipino and English. The Arts and Humanities are Edukasyon sa Pagpapakatao (Values Education or formerly Edukasyon sa Pagpapahalaga), Araling Panlipunan, Music, Arts, Physical Education and Health (MAPEH). Other subjects are Science, Math, and Technology and Livelihood Education. 
The formal teaching of Science as a separate subject will be taught starting Grade 3 but Science concepts and processes are introduced in Language, Math and Health as early as Kinder.... 
Quijano explains that subjects are grouped into core compulsory learning areas and areas of specialization. Math, Filipino, English, Araling Panlipunan, Edukasyon sa Pagpapakatao and MAPEH are for Grades 1 to 10. Edukasyong Pantahanan at Pangkabuhayan will be taught in Grades 4 and 5 while TLE will start in Grade 6. 
Students in Grades 7 and 8 will study a maximum of four exploratory TLE or tech-voc mini courses depending on community needs and school resources. The TLE subjects will equip them with competencies in mensuration and calculation, use of tools and equipment, interpretation of plans and drawing, occupational health and safety in the workplace, and maintenance of tools and equipment. 
Students can choose from 24 TESDA courses on entrepreneurship and tech- voc skills which include Automotive Servicing,  Mechanical Drafting, Computer Hardware Servicing, Horticulture, Shielded Metal Arc Welding, Consumer Electronics Servicing, Aqua Culture, Dressmaking, Tailoring, Masonry, Caregiving, Household Services, Plumbing, Agri Crop Production, Fish Capture, Handicraft, Carpentry, RAC Servicing, Electrical Installation and Maintenance, Bread and Pastry, Tile Setting, Animal Production, Food Processing, and Beauty Care.    
Moreover, students in Grades 9 and 10 can also specialize in academic tracks or electives such as advanced Science or Math, Philippine and Foreign Languages, Journalism, and Arts and Sports. 
In senior high school or Grades 11 and 12, the subjects are Languages, Literature, Math, Science, Contemporary Issues (global issues, politics and governance, society and culture) Social Sciences or Humanities and track-specific subjects. Those who will go to college will take any specialization in academics while students who prefer tech-voc will continue to specialize in the course they took in Grades 9 and 10. At the end of the school year, students will earn a Certificate of Competency (COC) in Grade 9 and a National Certificate 1 or II in Grade 10. 
Students in Grades 11 and 12 will undergo apprenticeship or practicum at companies identified by their schools. Quijano says the TLE courses are according to labor demands and in partnership with the business sector and the community."
I am not sure if "choose" is really the correct word to describe the options for the 24 TESDA courses mentioned above. No school could possibly offer all of these options unless schools in the Philippines still teach in high school the same way when I took "Retail and Merchandising". When I took that subject, I remember all we did was to take turns writing on the blackboard text from a textbook on retail and merchandising while the rest of the class simply copies what is written on the board. Then, we have periodical exams in which we simply regurgitate what we have written down on our notebooks.

One day. when I was in fifth grade, my mother was called to meet my teacher in school. I was making trouble in class. I was refusing then to participate in projects that were forced on students. We were being taught how to paint clay pots, do some sort of embroidery, and other skills associated with cottage industry. My teacher thought that I was just being uncooperative. After having a conversation with my mother, my teacher was surprised to hear that I was objecting to these projects because I did not want to ask my mother for money to pay for these projects. I did not think it was right for any school to force products (that are probably difficult to sell) on their students just to make business with the pretense of providing basic education.

The smorgasbord of courses outlined above makes one wonder how, for example, the thousands of students from public schools in Quezon City who had been forced to be home-schooled would be provided this curriculum. The lack of uniformity will not work for the objective of education for all. By providing too many options, schools' resources will be stretched further. And by providing too many choices, parents are then brainwashed to hunt for the best programs for their children. Soon, even some exclusive kindergarten schools would require letters of recommendation just to be admitted, like some schools in Manhattan, New York City. I wonder what one writes in those letters: "My child is gifted because at the age of two he/she is now toilet trained?"
Before the above is compared to Finland's curriculum, it should be noted that Finland's students do not have as much options until they finish the nine-year curriculum. It is only after basic education do Finland students choose between vocational or college education:
From  http://curriculumredesign.org/wp-content/uploads/CCR_seminar_Paris_2012_FINLAND.pdf 
Betsy Brown Ruzzi has nicely compiled on a table the contents of Finland's basic education curriculum in her 2005 report to the National Center on Education and Economy: New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce

DepEd's K to 12 maybe a work in progress, but a comparison at this point shows one major difference. Finland's curriculum covers basic education in a general fashion by providing an outline that can still be suited to a community. On the other hand, DepEd's K to 12 seems more like preparing a buffet just to make its curriculum attractive or interesting to the public. The Philippines' DepEd dreams of a restaurant with an all-encompassing menu. At the early years, students are already segregated. A few will be given special entrees. A few will have dessert. And all of these are offered despite of not having enough chefs (teachers) to prepare whatever is listed on the menu. In the end, not everyone will get a serving of all the basic food groups.

Congressman Palatino shares his opinion regarding the new curriculum of DepEd with Abante-Tonight:
Tinuturuan na ng Department of Education (DepEd) ang mga estud­yante sa mga pampublikong paaralan na maging domestic helper at maging tagapag-alaga o caregiver... (The Department of Education is now teaching students in public schools on how to become domestic helpers or caregivers)
...“Pipili ang isang school ng 8 sa 24 Voctech subject,” ani Palatino kung saan kabilang dito ang caregiving course o pag-aalaga, household o domestic helper, masonry, tailoring, dressmaking, electrical course, aquaculture, agriculture, aircon technician, nail care o manikurista, paggugupit at kung anu-ano pa. (Schools will choose 8 out of 24 Voctech subjects which include, caregiving, domestic help, masonry, tailoring ....)
Sinabi ng kongresista, walang ibang pupuntahan ng mga kursong ito kundi sa ibang bansa kaya hindi makakaahon ang mga Filipino lalo na ang mga limitado ang pinag-aralan kundi magpaalila sa ibayong dagat. (According to the congressman, these subjects have nowhere to go but supply domestic labor to foreign countries.)


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